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Twitter. Does your boss check you out?!

1 Apr

by Georgina Leggate @GeorginaLeggate

I went for an interview yesterday, for a work-experience placement at ITV. I was up to date with current affairs, the political situation in Libya and I had been watching ITV news all week. Enough, maybe, but I definitely would have prepared even more if I’d thought about the concept of my interviewer following me on Twitter?! One thing I hadn’t given any thought to was the state of my Twitter page. My profile, what does it say about me? Well I’ll tell you. The picture I have is of me lying on a bed in Beijing, waiting for a foot message. (From my traveling days.) There is nothing rude or inappropriate about the photo, just perhaps not the most professional photo I could have chosen. Also, I have a relatively low number of tweets (for a trainee journalist I suppose)…20 tweets to be precise. I am following 170 and am followed by 57….hardly 497,085 but a good start?!

Damn you Piers Morgan!

Anyway, it’s the first time I’ve ever felt sightly self conscious about any of my tweets, even though I don’t think I have ever ‘tweeted’ anything particularly offensive and/or controversial!  Quite the opposite in fact. In my opinion I use social media for what I believe to be all the right reasons. Journalistically I follow others who are in the know, I absorb the news feeds, I keep up to date with all the latest developments in current affairs and most importantly (in my view) I am able to find information and people, that I wouldn’t be able to, anywhere else. A good example of this was a recent package I produced for local TV station a month ago. For confidentiality reasons I won’t reveal the participants name, but he essentially gave me a lot of helpful and perhaps controversial pieces of information all through Twitter. What I am trying to say here is; just because I don’t use Twitter to report about my every moment, my every outing, my every meal (who would be interested anyway?) That doesn’t mean I am any less interested in social media. Perhaps I should tweet more. Perhaps I should spark up a debate with Lord Sugar…that should up my followers if nothing else!

Throughout all of my blogs, I have discussed the importance of social media in online journalism, AND, (you’ll be pleased to hear) I remain committed. I don’t see papers as ‘old news’ (excuse the pun) and I don’t want everyone to replace newspapers with twitter but what I do think is we have developed an amazing platform on which to transport information….to the world!

A website I visit regularly is www.mediahelpingmedia.com stresses the importance of social media in online journalism. One bit of advice I picked up on recently was the following statement.

‘Try to offer original, stimulating and compelling content’

Watch out for my new and improved tweets..!

Also, I got the placement, so either I managed to impress at interview, or perhaps he hadn’t seen my Twitter page ; )

Libya: Partisan coverage from mainstream media

6 Mar

Caroline James @CarolineJames1

There’s something about news coverage of what’s going on in Libya that makes me uneasy.

In the UK, we might be guilty of condescension towards Fox News, which we deride for its partiality.  The University of Maryland has even commissioned a study, claiming “extended exposure to Fox News makes voters stupid”, according to one article.

But are we any better?

Blind to what’s been going on in the MENA region for years, we’ve praised the Tunisians/Egyptians/Libyans for rising up in defiance of dictators who’ve too long held them in the grip of oppressive regimes.

And yet, Western governments have ignored, even rubber stamped, Gaddafi’s dictatorship for four decades.  So long, that the recent surge of anti-Gaddafi feeling in the mainstream media smacks of guilt:  kiss-and-tells, articles ridiculing Gaddafi’s sanity and SUDDENLY, he is to be investigated for war crimes.

We ignored it as it happened, but now we’re quick to condemn it.  Take, for example, Sir Howard Davies’ resignation as director of the LSE over its links to the Gaddafi regime.

I don’t condone the Gaddafi rule, but I do want to highlight the hypocrisy surrounding the media coverage of Libya.  Where’s the neutrality and impartiality that we expect from British journalists? Where are the pro-Gaddafi voices we should be obligated to hear in the pursuit of balanced coverage?

In one article, in the Ham & High, I direct you to the first line of the second paragraph:

Ham & High: "Gaddafi son told: quit suburb NOW"

 

Alleging Said Gaddafi is a “mass murderer” is surely grounds for libel.  Until The Hague can pin a war crime on the man, we cannot hold him accountable for sins of the father.  The mainstream press is going too far.

This raises an interesting point on the relationship between the official journalist and his citizen counterpart.  Type “Libya” into Twitter and try not to drown under a surge of anti-Gaddafi sentiment:

Anti Gaddafi tweet

There’s even an “Enough Gaddafi” profile .  It seems that, suddenly, everyone has something to say about Gaddafi – and their opinions have been heavily informed by what they’ve see on the news or read in the papers.

The lone voices who dare show a pro-Gaddafi stance are remarkable in their infrequency and derided for doing so (note the disparaging quotation marks around the trivialising adjective “voluptuous”):

Pro-Gaddafi voices are undermined

And, yet, we’ve ignored what Gaddafi was doing in Libya for years and, implicitly, given his dictatorship the green light to carry on.

The citizen journalist isn’t governed by the same pressures as the mainstream media, free to express a dissenting opinion or challenge what their official counterparts are doing.  There’s a pro-Gaddafi Facebook group, for example.

Anthony Loewenstein’s blog finds space to accuse western media of over simplification: Gaddafi is “bad” and we are “good”.  He accuses reporters of defending “the government line” because “that is their only logical perspective”.   This balance is rare on the tide of public sentiment towards the Libyan leader and his family.

We need more even-handed coverage of events in Libya.  If the pro-Gaddafi voices are discredited, before we give them a platform on which to be heard, it stokes the fire of “media conspiracy”.

As Ian and Georgie have argued in turn, social media has had some part to play in what’s going on in the Middle East.  I’ve found myself turning to it, too, to provide some antidote to the assumption that “West is best”, with blogs like Anthony’s and Dissident Voice.  Social media is, at present,  the only place we’re able to hear both sides: pro-Gaddafi alongside protester.

Are we giving Social Media too much credit for the Middle Eastern uprising?

28 Feb

Ian Kearney

@IanKearney

You may have read my colleague Georgina’s thought provoking piece on social networking and the fight for democracy in the Middle East. Yes undoubtedly social networks have and are still playing a part in rousing a lust for democracy, bringing repressed revolutionaries together and letting the world know what’s happening, but are we giving them more credit than they deserve?

Perhaps I’m being cynical or maybe I’m just plain wrong but it is important to question these things. Just because the mass media has given us the perception that Social Media played a huge role in the Middle Eastern uprising it doesn’t mean we should consider it fact without further thought.

Consider this, soon after the Egyptian uprising began the internet was shut down. This didn’t stop the growth of the protests, in fact we sat there day by day watching the masses grow.

How many people even have social networking accounts in these countries? The relevant Twitter statistics are not available but according to Facebook Statistic website SocialBakers;

  • Egypt has: 5 651 080 users and has had a 10% rise in the number of new accounts in the last month.
  • Tunisia has: 2 201 780 users and has had an 8% rise in the number of new accounts in the last month.
  • Libya has: 305 420 users and has had a 16% rise in the number of new accounts in the last month.

As we can see all three countries have had a notable rise in the number of people signing up to Facebook but if we look at the numbers as a percentage of their overall population the picture is a little different.

Only 4% of Libyans have Facebook accounts, 7% of Egyptians and 21% of Tunisians.

Looking at these figures, do the social networks have enough reach in these countries to move an entire nation to revolt? Perhaps in Tunisia but as for Egypt and Libya I’m not so convinced.

Facebook Revolution

Revolutions have been happening throughout the ages and while social networks are a relatively new phenomenon, revolutions are not.

To quote Peter Preston on his recent article in The Guardian, Twitter is no substitute for proper war reporting – just look at Libya;

“Lenin, Fidel Castro and Ayatollah Khomeini all managed to stage revolutions in the age before Twitter. The Soviet Union collapsed while Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook was still in short pants. So, just possibly, some of the credit for freedom’s wave as it washes around the Middle East belongs more to ordinary human beings standing together than to a tide of tweets.”

Would these revolutions have happened without social networks? Yes, of course they would. Would the world have gotten a similar insight, perhaps not.

social networks: demographics and democracy

27 Feb

by Georgina Leggate

 @GeorginaLeggate

Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya…social media has been the driving force behind most of, if not all of, the 2011 protests that have taken place in the Middle East. Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook not only played a huge role in the pro-democracy surge but they have provided a platform of communication, which is accessible to all areas of society. These networks have acted as a starting point for all of the protests and have given eclectic groups of repressed citizens, a taste of freedom.

The rich, the poor, the educated, the non-educated, thousands of individuals have been part of what we now call ‘the revolution’. Social media enabled both the protesters and their followers the world over, to support mass movements against autocratic governments.

Social networking also has the amazing ability to crush and flatten hierarchy. Let’s take the Egyptians for example. It is easy to think that the poor or the unemployed triggered the demonstrations, when in-fact there was a growing culture of frustration amongst all socio-economic classes across Egypt. Due to Mubarak’s repressive regime, class distinctions have become more and more blurred. Low pay, low moral combined with high levels of intellect and motivation created a spark that was going to fire up in to something much more.

The reality was that the individuals behind the progressive movement were young, educated and often, privileged men who had access to the Internet and had the ability to use it. The ever-increasing world of social networks that protesters used, gave them a voice.

The use of these social networks enabled technologically savvy protestors to make extraordinary use of the Internet and mobilise the masses. Despite an authoritarian government, social media gave the Egyptians back the power to the people as they usurped the incumbent Egyptian leadership.

Social media was used as a platform to reach citizens in their own country, neighbouring states and crucial, global, expat communities as well.

Unbeknown to the Egyptians, they were to start something quite spectacular as they gained national and international support. This ‘something’ was the ‘revolution’ which arguably stemmed from a large dollop of dictatorship, a sprinkle of civil unrest, a pinch of the people served with a large spoonful of social networks .